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The Download: An early toast

Posted in: Current Affairs   Environment and recreation   Municipal government   Food and Drink   Massachusetts Legislature
Tags: The Download


Who could have guessed the third week in March would be a bad one for alcohol sales in Boston?

In a city effort to keep things family friendly for the St. Patrick’s Day parade, bars in South Boston have been ordered to close at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday. Package stores will be closed by 4:00 p.m. While the Herald story, and the city’s press release, report that Boston is requiring bars and package stores to shut in order to stomp out St. Patrick’s parade shenanigans, the Globe has a slightly different take.

Meanwhile, the deal-of-the-day website Groupon this week ran afoul of Massachusetts liquor licensing laws because restaurants allow patrons to use the coupon towards the purchase of alcohol. Groupon-type coupons appear to be a violation Massachusetts happy hour restrictions, put into place in 1984 after several drunk driving incidents involving patrons leaving happy hour events.

Restaurants that do business with Groupon appear to be quickly stopping the practice: In the Herald story on the apparent infraction, one restaurant changed the terms of its sold-out Groupon, so that it no longer included drinks, after the Herald began making phone calls.

Groupon isn’t the first company to run into problems with happy hour laws. The Boston Red Sox, NESN broadcaster and restaurateur Jerry Remy, and bars here and there have all stopped promotions over the years after they were found to be in violation of “clear, bright lines of the boundaries of legality” that regulate discounted liquor sales in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission regulates such happy hour events, and the prohibition against happy hours is fairly cut and dry.  What’s less clear, however, is whether municipalities can shut down liquor sales in a particular neighborhood at their discretion, as Boston appears to be doing. Laws regarding liquor licenses state that establishments can’t be barred from serving between 11:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m., but those laws are limited to weekdays, and an exemption exists allowing a city to ban the sale of alcohol during times of “great public excitement.” This exemption, however, hasn’t been applied previously to other liquor-heavy holidays in Boston, such as New Year’s Eve. 

Whether it is the state’s Puritan roots at work, or a simple distaste for rowdy celebrations, it appears that both the city and state are not taking any chances this week when it comes to overconsumption.

                                                                                                                                                                --CHRISTINA PRIGNANO  

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A Superior Court judge in New Bedford ruled an incumbent Westport selectman can have his name on the ballot despite not hand-delivering his nomination papers to the town clerk after the signatures were certified by the board of registrars next door.

After years of neglect, historic Hibernian Hall in Roxbury’s Dudley Square got a $6.7 million renovation that has transformed it into a mixed-use building that developers hope is the start of revitalizing the area.

The Gloucester Times reports that Manchester residents will vote on a proposition 2 1/2 override this spring. Should the measure fail, the town would face layoffs and services such as trash collection would be reduced.

Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua received the keys to his Dominican Republic hometown of Tenares this week. Lantigua was incorrectly identified on a Dominican news site as the mayor of Boston, the Eagle Tribune reports.

The Grey Lady inspects the threadbare rugs inside Haverhill City Hall.

Inspector General Gregory Sullivan blasts the chairman of Newbury’s board of selectmen for an alleged conflict of interest violation.

Selectmen in Norton want to follow Foxboro in instituting a public drunkenness fine.

Somerville wants to move its city hall and library to Union Square.

Two Somerville restaurateurs may hate each other, but that doesn’t make their recent physical altercation a hate crime.

Boston officials want a waterfront developer to detail plans for combating rising sea levels.

ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

President Obama finally asks for safety reviews of nuclear power plants across the country.

After a US Senate vote, Cape Cod loses $24 million in funding for watershed rehabilitation projects.

The Hoosac Water Quality District plans additional capital improvements to a wastewater treatment plant in Williamstown.

BEACON HILL

The Springfield Republican calls on public officials to obey open meeting laws after the Holyoke Soldiers' Home chooses a new superintendent behind closed doors.

The Berkshire Eagle gives House Speaker Robert DeLeo an "E" for effort, but still prefers Gov. Deval Patrick's Probation Department reform plan over the speaker’s.

Registered lobbyists are skipping yearly in-person ethics training, the Salem News reports.

A Boston Herald editorial mocks Sen. Mark Montigny’s planned public browbeating of Fidelity Investments.

Gov. Deval Patrick stands up reporters who, at his own office’s suggestion, had gathered at Logan Airport last night.

Ian Bowles talks to David Bernstein.

HEALTH CARE

Paul Levy says officials should pay attention to a report from the Inspector General that points out the flaws in a global payment system based on reviews of the early contracts, including a marked lack of transparency for consumers.

BIG DIG

MassDOT officials ordered Big Dig light fixtures to be inspected annually back in 2009, but nobody can find records that would detail whether the inspections ever happened.

Keller@Large can’t find anyone – Democrats, Republicans, city officials, drivers – who thinks state transportation officials did the right thing by waiting six weeks before revealing corroding light fixtures have a tendency to fall from the ceilings of the Big Dig tunnels.

Secretary of Transportation Jeff Mullan says he should have notified the public – and Gov. Patrick – immediately of the Big Dig light fixture that crashed to the roadway in the O’Neill Tunnel five weeks ago.

ELECTION 2012

Never mind: Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich criticizes President Obama for disclosing his NCAA tournament picks during a time of crisis, then proceeds to list his own selections. Via Political Wire. Meanwhile, WBUR reports on Gingrich’s visit to New Hampshire.

Fantasy picks: Independents prefer Charlie Sheen for president over Sarah Palin. Via Political Wire.

Soon, Palin won’t even have that pipeline to brag about.

PUBLIC SAFETY

The Globe reports that the Boston police 911 call center is plagued with high absenteeism and shoddy handling of emergency calls.  Half of the 87 suspensions last year of department employees were of workers in the call center.

The Lowell Sun investigates health inspection practices in Greater Lowell and finds inspectors rarely shut down restaurants for violations.

Gloucester police are getting new, more fashionable uniforms.

EDUCATION

A prominent business-backed education reform group is pushing for new teacher evaluations in the state that would base at least 50 percent of performance reviews on MCAS scores and other measures of student achievement.

Globe columnist Scot Lehigh reviews the underwhelming embrace of innovation schools thus far in low-performing school districts.  CommonWealth teed up this issue last month.

The Lynn Daily Item reports on the anxious mood at a lottery to fill the fifth grade class of KIPP Academy in Lynn.

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports on student data that show Worcester’s charter schools aren’t helping to close the city’s achievement gap.

Former state elder affairs secretary and state rep Mike Festa has been sacked from his position as president of the Carroll Center for the Blind, the Globe reports. The story cited lackluster fundraising and reports of inappropriate contact with female workers as reasons for the abrupt move by the board of the Newton school.

WASHINGTON

House Republicans vote to strip NPR of its federal funding.

A Wall Street Journal op-ed accuses President Obama of voting present to inflate his poll numbers.

MEDIA

The New York Times unveils a long-awaited digital pay wall scheme. Digital access plans start at $195 per year – nearly twice the annual rate for the Wall Street Journal. The Atlantic notes that the pay wall won’t launch for another two weeks, but it’s already being hacked. Slate’s Jack Shafer wonders whether the new fee structure makes him a rube for actually paying for the paper for all these years.

SEALICIDE

A body was found on the marshland behind Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey’s property in the Squantum section of North Quincy but no charges will be brought. It was a harp seal.

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